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Learning English - Words in the News
25 March, 2005 - Published 14:22 GMT
EU seeks solutions to slow growth
Jose Manuel Barroso

European Union leaders have been discussing how to reinvigorate the Union's economies. A programme of reforms known as the Lisbon Agenda launched in 2000 has made slow progress and not delivered the faster economic growth that was hoped. This report from Andrew Walker:

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The European Union's aim was to produce the most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010. It is nowhere near on target to achieve that. Halfway through the process the European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has described the results as not very satisfactory.

Many of the reforms envisaged in the Lisbon agenda are about making the European Union a more effective market economy. One important element is to remove barriers to companies wanting to provide services outside their home country. A Directive intended to achieve this has been very controversial and the summit has decided that its proposals should be watered down.

Some countries, notably France were worried about job losses and lower standards of regulation. The Lisbon Agenda also saw the need for a more flexible workforce. But the kind of flexibility wanted by many businesses is politically difficult for some European leaders. Many businesses complain that health care, pensions and other costs make it too expensive to create new jobs. There have been moves to reduce these costs in some member countries. But such moves go against the grain in countries where elaborate social welfare and strong job security laws are very popular.

Andrew Walker, BBC

Listen to the words

fast growing

nowhere near on target
far from achieving the goal

envisaged in
proposed by

intended to
aiming at

causing argument or disagreement

watered down
made weaker, less forceful

a more flexible workforce
when employees take jobs when and where needed


go against the grain
are not popular

elaborate social welfare
a complex system of looking after the citizens’ well-being

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